Lingopolo organises lessons into sets of words, and trains you to understand these words by quizzing you with flashcards. Each quiz consists of 10 words. At the start of each quiz, you will be shown your current knowledge of the set of words, and at the end of each quiz, you will be shown your new knowledge level. The idea is that you move each set of words along from having a starting knowledge of 0% to the point where for each set you have a knowledge of 100%.
The best place to start is to follow the Recommended lesson.
This can be found on the Home page and, when you are logged in, on the Online Lessons page.
On these pages you will see a Recommended lesson box that looks like this:
You can simply click on the recommended lesson green Learn button and begin.
The Recommended lesson will always be displayed on the Online Lessons page, and at the end of every quiz. It will automatically adapt to where you are in your language learning, so it will always show you the best lesson to be studying at your current level.
An alternative, and also good, is to go to the list of Themed courses, and pick a theme which interests you and to follow the recommended lesson for that theme. For example, if you wanted to learn Clothes you would go to the Clothes course and you will see it recommends for you to do the Clothes 1 lesson.
One thing to realise, is that as long as the Mastery (High) Scores displayed at the top of the page are going up, then you are improving. In fact, it doesn't really matter which order you choose to study, as long as you are progressing. If these scores are going up, then you are progressing. The recommended lessons will take you on the normal route through the material, but if you choose to plot your own course, that's OK too.
Imagine you are in a classroom with a teacher who is using purely your target language. The teacher points to parts of his body and, in the target language, says what the parts are (e.g. head, arm, nose). The teacher then asks you, in the target language, to point, for example at his head. If you get it right, the teacher congratulates you. If you get it wrong, or appear to be struggling, the teacher will help you or correct you. All the time, this is done in the target language. You, as a student, are processing the language in a very natural way. The teacher gradually makes the exercise harder and harder (e.g. asking you to point at his arm AND his nose). Basically Lingopolo tries to reproduce this interaction with a teacher through questions and answers.
There are a number of key principles:
teaching you to understand a gradually more and more complex body of comprehensible input. This means that Lingopolo starts teaching you very simple words and phrases, and gradually moves to more and more complex words and phrases. The aim is to always challenge you, but never to lose you.
teaching you from the most common words to the least common words, in order to maximise effectiveness. Every lesson is carefully arranged to make sure that you learn the most frequently used words first.
requiring you to use active comprehension, rather than passive comprehension. We constantly use question and answer to ensure that you are always paying attention.
Our skill focus on Lingopolo is on listening and getting you to understand what you hear spoken, and when you can understand what is being spoken, getting you to speak. When you can understand what is being said by someone else, it is much easier to be able to say these things yourself.
We build up your language comprehension skills naturally by building up sentences in a pyramid-like way. For example, first you might learn to understand some nouns (e.g. "man", "woman", "dog", "banana", "two"), then you learn to understand some verbs (e.g. "to like", "to eat"), and then we very quickly start putting them together into simple phrases like "The man likes the dog", "The woman eats two bananas". Our emphasis here is not on forcing you to speak before you are ready, but on making sure that you understand what is spoken, that you are learning to process language in a very natural way.
At Lingopolo, we teach the 4 language skills in the following order:
listening. We make the listening skill (and of course comprehending what is said), the fundamental platform upon which each of the other skills are built. This is the most effective way to ensure that you develop a good accent when you speak.
speaking. Once we are sure you can understand a word or phrase, then, and only then, do we ask you to speak it. This ensures that you at least have a good basis in your head for how a word or phrase sounds before trying to say it.
reading. Before reading a word or phrase, we prefer that you can recognise it when it is spoken (the listening phase), and that you can reproduce it when speaking (the speaking phase). Then, and only then, do we suggest you learn to read it. This ensures that you use just your ears and mouth (and not your eyes) during the listening and speaking phase. When you speak, the aim should always be to reproduce what you hear spoken, and not what you see written.
writing. Finally, when you can properly read a word, then, and only then, do we teach you to write it.
It should be remembered that this sequence of listening, then speaking, then reading, then writing is the way in which children learn their own language.
Lingopolo is based on the idea of Comprehensible Input presented in an interactive way. Comprehensible Input is basically learning language from hearing (or reading) material which is just a teeny bit above your current level, so that you can understand it, and new words or sentence structures in the material can be learnt indirectly from context.
There are some great websites which take this concept of Comprehensible Input very seriously, by containing videos in the target language from beginner to advanced.
Lingopolo tries to create a more interactive take on the Comprehensible Input idea.
This is the method which the world's leading language organisation, SIL, uses for their staff to learn languages with one-on-one language helpers. SIL are the leading experts on world linguistics. It is SIL who are the authors of the Ethnologue, the definitive guide to the world's languages.
It is an aural method based on the principle of learning increasingly complex comprehensible input.
We believe that everyone should have access to quality language education. That's why Lingopolo aims to do for language learning what Wikipedia has done for knowledge learning. To become the place to learn languages online, to learn any language, from any language, for free.
As far as possible, all the recordings are made by real people, who are all native speakers of the language.
We do not use people who have learned the languages as second languages.
For example, 100% of the Thai words, phrases and dialogues (currently 12274 entries) are spoken by real people, all of whom are native Thai speakers.
We have started to use text-to-speech software for some of the languages where we do not have recordings by real people available. We believe that recordings by real people are still the ideal. Nonetheless, we also believe that the quality of audio generated by text-to-speech software is nowadays so good that it's better to have software generated audio than no audio at all.
A lesson can be grouped by part-of-speech, so for example there is a lesson on nouns and a lesson on verbs. This can be useful if, say, you feel you you are lacking a particular type of word.
The full range of these lessons can be found on the lessons page.
In addition to the lessons described above, we also have some special lessons. The most important of these is the words lesson; this is the perfect lesson for revision of all the words on this site. It is the ultimate practise tool for all of the words. It will very quickly hone in on those words which you find difficult and keep getting wrong, and will keep asking you until you are fluent!
Finally, there is the phrases lesson; this is not something for the beginner, since it puts together the words from each of the other lessons. We therefore recommend you study the words lessons first, and that you first study the phrases in the context of one of the traditional lessons above. However, when you’re ready, this is an excellent lesson to really challenge and stretch your Thai.
The main tab in every lesson is the Lesson Summary tab. Here you can find a summary of the lesson contents and your current progress:
Every lesson has a Lesson Quiz tab, which enables you to choose the type of quiz you want to do:
In every lesson, you can check on the Lesson Content tab exactly what words and phrases the lesson contains:
In the Lesson Progress tab, you can see exactly how far each word or phrase has progressed in being mastered:
Finally on the lesson Mastery tab, you get a clear overview of how you are doing in mastering each of the words and phrases in this lesson:
Every lesson has exactly the same structure, so you should soon feel comfortable finding your way around a lesson.
A quiz consists of up to 10 questions taken from a particular lesson, and is the main way in which Lingopolo teaches you the words and phrases. Each question in the quiz is scored either right or wrong.
For example, in the lesson on animals, there are currently 20 words. A quiz will ask you 10 questions, using some of these 20 words. Depending on how much you have already studied this lesson, and whether you keep getting the words correct or not, the ten questions may be ten different words from this lesson, or, more likely (if you are getting words wrong), a smaller number of words with some of those that you get wrong repeated.
At the end of the quiz, you will be shown your results for the quiz.
You can choose the type of quiz question which you are given from the Quiz tab. Each quiz type has its own special characteristics, so its good to have a full understanding of each.
Automatic quiz type
By default, the quiz type is set to Automatic. In general, this is the best quiz type to have selected, as it will select for each word or phrase the best type of quiz question depending on your current knowledge. When you don't know a word yet, it will ask you with a multi-choice question. As you get better at that word or phrase, it will then ask you from the language you are studying into your own language (e.g. French to English). Finally, when you know the word or phrase very well, it will ask you with the hardest question type of all, which is from your own language into the language you are learning (e.g. English to French).
Note that with the Automatic quiz type selected, the question type for a word or phrase will change to be easier or harder, depending on how well you have done in the past. If you get a word right, the question type will become harder, but also, if you get a word wrong, the question type will become easier. For example, if you are asked a word from your language to the language you are studying, and you get the word or phrase wrong, the next time you are asked it will start again by asking you a multi-choice question.
We strongly recommend that, at least to begin with, you leave the quiz type as Automatic.
Multi-choice quiz type
In a multi-choice quiz, you are give a selection of 5 answers to choose from. This is the easiest type of quiz, since you can just pick the one which you think is correct. Often, you may not be completely sure which is the correct answer, but you may at least know some of the answers which are not correct.
Note that a multi-choice question will always try and find fairly similar answers for you to select from, at least in terms of the length of the phrase. For example:
Listening skills: "French to English" style quiz type
Here, by French to English, we mean from the language you are learning, into your own language, so instead of French, this might be Thai or Dutch. This is the best quiz to practice your listening skills, since you will hear your target language spoken, and you will have to know what the person is saying.
In this question type, you will simply hear a recording of the word or phrase, and you will have to see if you understand it.
Lingopolo does not judge automatically whether you got the answer right, or wrong; that is for you to do. When you see the answer you decide whether you were right or wrong:
Speaking skills: "English to French" style quiz
The next style quiz is from English (or your own language) into French (or whatever your target language is, which might be Thai or Dutch).
This is the quiz type which is designed to test your speaking ability. You will see here that you are just prompted with the English word (or phrase) and you have to know how to say it in the target language. This is exactly the skill you need when you are speaking in a language; you know what you want to say, and you have to pull from your brain the right word, or words, including the right word order, the right forms of the words, and of course the right pronunciation.
Just as with the listening-skills question (French to English), the speaking skills (English to French) asks you to be the judge of whether you got the answer correct or not:
Although it might seem like you cannot mark yourself correct or not, in fact, this works very well. Most of the time you will know the word or phrase (in which case you were right), or have no idea (in which case you were wrong). In the case of pronunciation, you will gradually train your hearing to better and better be able to say whether you were saying the right thing or not.
Wherever possible, every word has examples of its use in phrases. Each of these phrases are also in Lingopolo, so you can click on the phrase to browse in more detail, or click on the Learn button to practice just that phrase.
Yes, you can play any of the recordings more slowly. Simply click on the tortoise image, and the recording will play at slow speed. The tortoise is well-known for being slow:
In addition, if you are looking at a phrase (something made up of more than one word), then you can listen to each of the individual words in that phrase using the Literal Breakdown section. As well as being able to play the individual words manually in the Literal Breakdown, there is a special "Play all" button which will play each of the entries in the Literal Breakdown automatically one after another. It is often easier to understand what is said in a complex phrase by listening to each of the individual words separately.
The levels make sure you are learning the words and phrases in the most efficient way. We use a scientifically proven method called Spaced Repetition. All you have to remember is that the website will automatically calculate which is the best word or phrase to ask you next. The system ensures that you are gradually learning new words, that you get lots of revision of the most recent words or those words which you are having problems with, and that you are still revising old words.
Basically, the lower level a word is (level 0 is the lowest), the more often you will be asked it. The higher level a word is (level 10 is the highest), the less often you will be asked it. A word moves from level one (least well known) through to level ten (known extremely well). When you get a word right it moves up by one level, from say level two to level three. When you get a word wrong, it goes back to level zero. A level of -1 is used to indicate that a word has never been started.
In addition, the type of the question (multi-choice, Thai to English, or English to Thai) changes as the word or phrase moves through the levels.
The type of question asked (on the automatic question type) varies based on the level, and the timing of repetition is as follows:
Level 0, multi-choice, 1 minute
Level 1, multi-choice, 10 minutes
Level 2, multi-choice, 1 day
Level 3, multi-choice, 2 days
Level 4, Thai to English, 4 days
Level 5, Thai to English, 8 days
Level 6, Thai to English, 16 days
Level 7, English to Thai, 32 days (1 month)
Level 8, English to Thai, 64 days (2 months)
Level 9, English to Thai, 128 days (4 months)
Level 10, English to Thai, unlimited days, i.e. will not get asked again unless reset
So, for example, if a word or phrase has been answered wrongly, it will go back to Level 0, and then be asked again after 1 minute of delay, as a multi-choice question. If the word or phrase is answered correctly, it will be asked again after 10 minutes, again as a multi-choice question. Note that the English to Thai phase of the learning only happens after 1 month of practise in the Thai to English mode. This ensures that you are thoroughly practised at hearing the word correctly (the listening phase), before you are required to be able to produce it yourself (the speaking phase).
Yes, you can reset a word or phrase back to the Unstarted level. On every entry (word, phrase, dialogue), you should see a "Reset Level" option:
When you click on this it will ask for confirmation, showing you the current level of the word/phrase (in this case Level 8), and warning you that it will be reset to the Unstarted level:
If you click on Reset, it will reset the level to Unstarted, which you can then see displayed:
Why would you want to do this? Well, it's an easy way to get Lingopolo to give you some extra practice for a word or phrase, since it will make Lingopolo think you have never yet practiced this word or phrase.
Yes, there is a way to reset a lesson back to the start.
You will need to go to the Mastery tab for the lesson, and at the bottom you should see a "Reset levels" option:
When you click on Reset levels, you will receive a confirmation warning of what you are about to do, telling how many entries (words or phrases) will be affected, and the change in score which will occur:
When you click Reset, all the entries for that lesson will be reset to the Unstarted state, and the points for those entries will be reset to zero:
Why would you want to do this? Well, if you feel you just need a little bit of extra practice for a particular lesson, then by resetting the lesson scores, Lingopolo will automatically quiz you again on this lesson content.
Then you will need to go the language home page, where you have access to 3 special lessons:
Dutch Known (or whatever language it is you are studying), which is the lesson which contains every entry (word or phrase)
Words Known, which is the lesson which contains every individual word
Phrases Known, which is the lesson which contains every phrase (two or more words)
By clicking on each of these numbers, you can go directly to the Mastery tab for each of them. Here you can reset the entire lesson, and therefore you can reset your entire score back to zero.
Be careful that's really what you want to do, because your score will start again from zero and you'll have to redo all the entries.
Used carefully, this can be a great way to revise everything. No doubt the second time through the content you'll whizz through much faster than the first time you went through it, so it can be a great way to do revision.
Hello, my name is Hugh, and I am the founder and original creator of Lingopolo.
I was working as a software developer of websites, but also I was a student of Thai; this website began as the combination of those two things. Many of the Thai recordings are taken simply from my real lessons with my teachers. I am still a large user of the website, using it for my own language study, and changing the website to be the language website that I want.
I have been doing software development for most of my working life. I have worked for many of the worlds biggest companies including IBM, Microsoft, Sony and AIG. I worked at the European Commission as an IT consultant on probably the biggest website development in Europe, the merge of literally hundreds of diverse European Commission websites into one coherent site.
I also trained in linguistics. Not just at a regular University course, but with SIL, the world's elite linguists. These are the people who wrote the Ethnologue, the definitive guide to the world's languages. The linguistics training course taught us how to be linguistic special forces. We learnt how to go into any language area in the world, and without any classes, language books, dictionary or anything, to learn to speak the language just by talking with native speakers. It was this one-on-one method I was using to learn Thai, and it was this one-on-one language experience which I thought I would like to automate. This was the beginning of Lingopolo.
I now work as the full-time Founder of Lingopolo, seeking to bring about the vision that everyone should have access to quality language education, the ability to learn any language, from any language, for free.
The picture shows me in 2013 in an actual lesson with my Thai teacher Khruu Aun.
The name Lingopolo comes from two parts, "lingo" and "polo".
"Lingo" means a foreign language or local dialect, and of course Lingopolo is all about helping you to learn the foreign lingo or language.
The "polo" part is mainly there just to give the word "Lingopolo" a nice sound, and to turn it from a nondescript name like "Lingo website" to a proper noun, "Lingopolo". The word "poly" meaning "many or much", was in mind originally, but ultimately it was changed to "polo" for the nice sound of having "o"..."o"..."o" in the name. Some people have wondered whether it comes from the name of the great explorer Marco Polo. I don't remember thinking of him when I was choosing the name, but that's a nice connection.
One of the other considerations that I had was I wanted something fairly easy to pronounce. I think the word Lingopolo achieves that. I don't know whether that is the case in all languages. That time will tell.
The mixture of some relevant real words, and changing it a little is like the way the names "Skype" and "Google" are formed; these names contain bits which mean something (Skype contains "sky", the blue stuff above you, and the name Google is based on "googol", a large number) but then they get tweeked a bit and turned into a proper noun, which becomes the brand name. Similarly Lingopolo is simply based on the word lingo, turned into a unique brand name by the addition of polo.
I suppose the name may have slightly different connotations depending on the language you start from. As one of my Thai teachers pointed out, the word "ling" in Thai is actually the word for monkey.
I believe that everyone should have access to quality language education. That's why Lingopolo aims to do for language-learning what Wikipedia has done for knowledge learning. To become the place to learn languages online. The place to learn any language. From any language. For free.
You see most language systems only cover a handful of language pairs. If you speak English, and you want to learn French or German, you have a huge choice.
But if you want to learn Norwegian or Persian or Thai, your options are very limited.
And if you speak Persian and you want to learn English, or you speak French and you want to learn Thai, or you speak German and you want to learn Norwegian, forget it.
But what Lingopolo does, is create a language-learning system which goes from any language, to any language.
And notice I said to speak a foreign language.
"Hi Benjamin, you’ve just finished your English course, so how was it?"
"Ze. Beer. Eats. Rice. Wiz. K-nifee. And. Fook!"
You see most language-teaching systems are writing-based and so when it comes to understanding spoken language or speaking...they’re, well, just not very good.
Lingopolo though is 100% audio-based.
You learn to understand and say thousands of spoken words and phrases, all in the fastest possible time using spaced-repetition.
You learn through quizzes of different types targeting each of the 4 language skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing.
You choose your own focus with themed courses on every subject from Animals to Weather.
And the best bit about it, is that all these language courses are free. I spoke to David who works with refugees in Greece. They speak Persian or Arabic, but they want to learn English or German or French. They just want the chance to start again. They can’t afford paid language courses, and there are thousands of these refugees, even tens of thousands. David said to me, "Can you help?".
I knew there was no way that commercially this could work; paying people to produce all these languages, and then offering them for free. This just wouldn’t be commercially viable.
But I started to ask myself: “What if Lingopolo was completely free?!”.
I realised that if Lingopolo was free, it would suddenly have access to thousands of existing recordings shared for non-commercial use.
I realised that if Lingopolo was free, people would be willing to volunteer to add language recordings.
I realised, that by building Lingopolo using a model of collaboration, Lingopolo could end up as a much better system than any commercial system could possibly hope to be.
By being completely free, Lingopolo could transform the world of language learning forever. This would be great, not just for refugees, and those in the world who can’t afford paid language courses, but for everyone who wants to learn a language; whether you’re a student in school, a businessman travelling, a holidaymaker or someone moving to another country.
Lingopolo is a fully audio-based language-learning system; a system where anybody can learn to speak a foreign language. Any language. From any language. For free.